Bad Idea Friday: Conspicuous Conservation

Since the early twentieth century, Conspicuous Consumption has driven a multi-billion dollar glut of unnecessary stuff. But in the midst of a vicious recession, conspicuous consumption has been a little less conspicuous as those of us with jobs and discretionary spending money try not to rub it in. What is a luxury goods manufacturer to do?

Businesses, take heart. This week, Freakonomics host Steve Dubner unveiled a new term that could introduce a second wind into the luxury market: Conspicuous Conservation.
Economist Steve Sexton, who coined the term, explains Conspicuous Conservation as, “A sort of ‘Keeping Up with the Joneses’-type concept but applied to efforts to make society better. I will be competing with my neighbors to donate to a charity, for instance, or to reduce energy conservation or environmental impacts.”

Selfish consumption is so yesterday. Today, it’s all about selfless spending. Or is it? Sexton argues that Conspicuous Conservation is not about what you can do for your planet, but what your planet can do for you. Namely, it can boost your “green self-image,” give you cache in your community, and lead to new friends or better job opportunities. And the effect remains the same whether or not conservation efforts make a real difference, as long as money is involved. This is why some people put solar panels on the shady side of their roof, buy $40 reusable shopping bags or fly halfway around the world to experience eco-tourism.

It doesn’t have to stop here. We took Conspicuous Conservation one step further with some products that will make sure everyone knows just how altruistic and sustainable you really are.

Spin The Wheel Donation App: Automatically donates 10% of your income to random environmental causes and shares the donation on Facebook to encourage your friends to do the same. Buy it through the App or Android store and receive a woven bamboo smart phone skin and a solid wood plaque commemorating your contribution by overnight mail.

Luxury Chicken Accessory Line: Many city codes allow urban residents to house several chickens. Their benefits are well known, including fresh free-range eggs, organic fertilizer and Sunday dinner. Show your appreciation for your chickens with accessories including diamond studded collars, beak bling and jasmine-scented feather conditioning spray. Let Henrietta and Percy live it up in a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired chicken coop, perfect for showing off in the front yard.

Solar Panel TV Antenna: Your neighbors will think you’ve gone green, but instead of boring solar energy, you will receive high-intensity transmission from TV stations from around the globe. Warning: high-pitched frequencies may keep your neighbor’s dog awake at night.

Recycling Trash Cozy: Don’t you feel embarrassed on garbage night when you have to lug out the ugly landfill trash bin alongside your beautiful recycling bin? Now you can disguise it with the Recycling Trash Cozy. Let people believe you produce two bins of recycling waste! The workers at the recycling center sort through that stuff anyway, right?

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